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Foot cavalry was an oxymoron coined to describe the rapid movements of infantry troops serving under Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson during the American Civil War (1861–1865). The use of the words "foot" and "cavalry" to describe the same troops were seemingly in conflict with one another, as unlike normal cavalry units with horses, his men were infantry troops, usually on foot (although occasionally traveling by train).
To achieve the reputation for amazing speeds of travel, Stonewall Jackson used a combination of great audacity, excellent knowledge, and shrewd use of the terrain, added to the ability to inspire his troops to great feats of marching and fighting. His men endured forced marches and he used an intimate knowledge of the passes and railroad tunnels along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to move between the Piedmont region and the Shenandoah Valley with unanticipated rapidity, confounding his opponents in the Union leadership. Because his opponents learned early in the War that they could not accurately predict his location, Jackson and his "foot cavalry" are considered by many historians to have been a major factor in leadership failures of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and General George B. McClellan during the Peninsula Campaign. In fear of Jackson, Lincoln ordered extra troops held back from McClellan's expedition to protect Washington, D.C.. McClellan, whose actions were later clearly seen as overly cautious, was unnerved by Jackson's sudden appearance in front of him at the beginning of the Seven Days Battles. In combination, these actions of Lincoln and McClellan contributed significantly to the failure of the main mission of the Peninsula Campaign, which was to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond in the summer of 1862, prolonging the Civil War for almost three more years.
In modern military terminology, Jackson's troops would probably be known as a "rapid deployment force."